Shadow of the Colossus For PS4 Review

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Shadow of the Colossus For PS4 Review



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This emotional monster-slayer remains one of the best PlayStation games ever made.

Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 4 is a stunning return to the classic that first wowed us on the PlayStation 2 in 2005. With completely redone art and spectacular lighting, it expertly captures the original’s unique beauty, awe-inspiring scope, and absolutely heartbreaking story while simultaneously fixing a handful of imperfections. The result is not only an incredible remaster, but one of the best and most beautiful games the PS4 has to offer.

Part of Shadow of the Colossus’ enduring legacy is in its relatively simplistic design. You explore the vast, gorgeous world in search of 16 unique, terrifying beasts. These range from humanoid giants to airborne birds and massive underwater hydras. Though it’s never actually explained, your motivation is clear: slay them in order to restore life to a comatose woman who is clearly important to you. But while this premise is simple, the act of embarking on this six to eight-hour quest is remarkable.

Riding out of the central shrine and using the beam of sunlight reflecting off your sword as a dowsing rod to find your next target is a continually satisfying way to kick off a hunt. And every time I started making my way toward a beast’s literal stomping grounds I was left stunned by just how gorgeous Shadow of The Colossus has become. From the way light drips through a forest to the swaying clumps of matted hair on a colossus to the textures on your character’s cloak, it’s leaps and bounds past most other contemporary games, to say nothing of its source material. It looks great even on a launch PS4, and even better on a Pro.

I kept forgetting that I was playing a 13-year-old game.

This remaster also does a fantastic job of fixing some of the problems of the 2005 original, while completely modernizing the entire experience to our 2018 standards. The frame rate no longer buckles in the presence of a particularly massive colossus, and when you set it to performance mode on a PS4 Pro it even maintains 60 frames per second with minimal sacrifices in quality. You can see all the way to the horizon while riding across the vast, somber planes, revealing a sense of scale hidden in the original due to short draw distances. And the new control setup remaps the jump and grab buttons in a way that simply makes more sense than the strange original configuration. Combine all of this with a flexible photo mode and a handful of new Easter eggs and this remaster made me forget that I was playing a 13-year-old game.

There are still a handful of minor nagging issues that exist: for instance, the scope of some of the battles and your close proximity to a giant, hairy colossus means that the camera will occasionally get lost in tufts of fur and obscure your view at a crucial moment. Likewise, success in a few of the encounters relies on getting the colossus to stand in a very specific position, which can sometimes be a bit like trying to get a dog to stay in a bathtub.

This illusion that they’re living creatures creates an internal conflict.

But overall, the classic design of Shadow of the Colossus has stood the test of time without a trace of wear. Each of the 16 colossi are puzzles in and of themselves, and they ramp up from simple as you begin to learn the controls and mechanics, to deviously challenging and complex by the end. I love how that initial moment of awe and terror when you first see a beast is quickly replaced by curiosity; surveying a creature and learning its nuanced movements and distinctive behaviors as you map out a path to the top make it feel like you exist inside of a nature documentary. It’s this illusion that they’re living creatures that creates an internal conflict in hunting and killing them, and Shadow of the Colossus twists that knife brilliantly.

Likewise, having a minimal set of tools at your disposal – only a sword, a bow, and your awesome horse Agro – means that you need to master each one in order to take down the beasts. There are some cool upgrades that can be gained by completing the optional Time Attack modes, such as stronger weapons, different colored horses, and even a parachute that aids exploration. And while none of these are necessary to defeat any of the beasts, they provide some solid incentives to replay the fantastic encounters.

Once you actually hop aboard a Colossus, the entire experience feeds into a fantastic sense of tension. The wonderful and evocative score swells, the creatures try to shake you off, and your grip meter ticks down as you try to find a weak point. This impending sense of dread is heightened by that last point — stamina management leads to awesome cinematic moments where I’d make it to a safe ledge just as my grip fades away. This mechanic brought to mind some of the most incredible moments of last year’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which in retrospect was clearly inspired by the original Shadow of the Colossus.

The climax of the story remains as one of the most powerful moments in all of gaming.

All of these encounters feed into the emotional arc of the story. The journey of your character and his sleeping sister (Queen? Lover?) is one marked in tragedy. Watching him slowly become less and less human as you slay these innocent beasts, all in the name of saving this person he clearly loves, is nothing short of brutal. It’s a moral problem that’s driven home by every part of the act of taking down a colossus: There is none of the congratulatory fanfare we’re conditioned to expect after a boss fight. You aren’t given XP or money. Instead, you’re met with a notable silence that prompts you to reflect on what you just did. And, without going into spoiler territory, the emotional climax of the story remains as one of the most powerful moments in all of gaming.

The Verdict

The true definition of a classic, the gameplay and story of Shadow of the Colossus are every bit as great and emotional today as they were in 2005. This outstanding remaster skillfully enhances those qualities with improved controls, performance, and sheer graphical beauty. It remains one of the best PlayStation games ever made, and it’s wonderful that Sony has brought it back to the fore so a new generation of gamers can experience it without having to look past its aged facade.

Editors’ Choice



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